The attack on the divisional police station, Afuze, in the Owan East Local Government Area of Edo State, two weeks ago, claimed the lives of the divisional police officer, a pregnant female sergeant and two others. Relatives of the policewoman share the agonies of losing their loved one with ADEKUNLE PETER
What do you do for a living?
I am George Okhiria, an applicant. I graduated in 2008 from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, where I studied Public Administration.
Who are you to the slain policewoman?
I am Justina’s husband. We dated for nine years before we married. It is about nine years now that we married. That means we have been together for about 18 years.
How many children do you have together?
We have two daughters, Treasure and Faith. One is seven, going to eight. The other one is four, going to five. The one that is seven years is in primary four while the other is in primary two.
When did your wife join the Force?
She joined the force in 2004 and rose to the rank of a sergeant.
Where were you when you received the news of your wife’s death?
I was in the bathroom bathing the children when my brother-in-law called me on the phone and asked where my wife was. I told him that I just dropped her at the station for night duty. She left home at about 6pm, but it was sometime between 7 and 8 pm that he called her. My brother-in-law then told me that somebody called him on the phone that armed robbers were attacking the police station. Immediately, I left my children in the bathroom and rode my motorcycle there. As I approached the station, they stopped me from going any further. We saw as the people were operating at the station. I was dialling my wife’s phone it was ringing, but she was not picking it and it was rare for her to do so.
I became uncomfortable and restless, but everybody said I shouldn’t move near to the station. But I refused and began to go closer. As I began moving closer, my wife’s eldest sister called me on the phone and told me not to move nearer to the station, that my wife must have run into a nearby bush to hide or probably left her phone at the station. I stood still at the roadside looking as the attackers were operating inside the station. Immediately the shooting subsided, I ran into the station, searching everywhere for her, but she was nowhere in sight. I went round the premises, but I didn’t see her.
Then, I saw one of her colleague named Hope; she was not in uniform. I asked her, ‘Hope, where is your friend?’ She just looked at me, but did not utter a word.
As I was talking to her, I saw a man in uniform, some distance away. I recognised him as the station officer named Barry. I called him and he replied with my appellation, Protocol. I asked him, ‘Where is my wife?’ He asked back, “your wife?” and walked away.
As I approached the gate, my mind told me to return and check the offices in the station for my wife.
But my brother-in-law went ahead of me. Suddenly, I heard him shout from inside one of the offices. As I got into the office, I saw the lifeless body of my wife on the ground. That’s all I could remember. I don’t know how I got into my house. They told me that I passed out at the station and they brought me back home.
How do you feel about the way she was killed?
My wife was seven months pregnant before they killed her. As they took her to the mortuary, they decided to remove the unborn child to save it. When they brought out the child, they discovered that it was a boy. That is something she had been praying for. We have been praying and hoping to have a boy. For about two years, she prayed fervently to God to give her a male child.
How would you describe your wife?
She was not just a wife to me. She was everything to me. I told you that we dated for nine years before we eventually got married. For one to be with somebody for nine years, you will know the kind of person she was. She knew me and I knew her.
Being a policewoman, how would you describe her relationship with others in the community?
If you go round to talk to people in the community, they will tell you the kind of person she was. You need to see the crowd that attended her burial and the way they showed concern. Till now, people still come to pay respect to her. She had good relationship with everyone that came her way, both at work, in my family and in the community. To me, she was a perfect woman.
It is still a nightmare to me (he became emotional). I have not recovered from the shock. Sleeping at night is a problem because whenever I close my eyes, I see her and I wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore. My friends and relatives have been coming around me to keep me company.
What have the police authorities done for you?
She has been buried. Apart from the investigation that the police carried out, I cannot say this or that is what the police have done. They have not done anything for my wife. Since my wife’s burial, only the Owan diocese of the Anglican Church gave us N20,000. The police have not shown concern in any way. That was why my family and my wife’s family said they cannot abandon her in the mortuary. So, they came together, offset the bills and buried her.
Would you encourage any of your family members to join the Force?
I will disagree because it is obvious that they don’t show concern. They don’t value the lives of their colleagues. This one has taught me a bitter lesson I will never forget in my life. For somebody to die on duty; hoodlums came to kill her on duty, and yet, there is no concern shown even after her burial. It is a sad story to tell.
I almost collapsed seeing my sister’s dead body in the station — Brother
Who are you to the deceased?
I am Enaifoghe, elder brother to the late Justina.
What can you say about her?
She was like a wife to me. She was a lovable and caring person. She hardly quarrelled with people. Wherever she went, people liked her. Her gap-tooth (diastema) was attractive whenever she smiled. On the day she was buried, many people came to pay their last respects to her.
Where were you when you heard of her death?
Well, it was painful. I was at my friend’s store, close to the police station when we heard some people shooting sporadically. That’s how I began shouting, ‘my sister, my sister!’ Immediately, I called my mother and my sister’s husband on the phone, but none of them responded to my calls. When my mother finally responded, I asked her if her daughter went to work that evening and she said yes. I told her that if her daughter really went to work, then, she was dead. I told her of the sporadic shooting and the dynamite explosion we heard and she began to cry.
When the shooting stopped, we went into the station, but we did not immediately see any dead body and the detainees in the cells had been freed. The building was also on fire and we were trying to put out the fire. We did not immediately know that the four victims, the DPO, Inspector Sadoh, my younger sister, Justina, and one other lady whose name I don’t know, were all killed inside one of the offices. They killed them inside a small office. It was sad. When we saw the dead body, I almost collapsed but I thank God that I am still alive.
Have the police authorities reached out to the family?
The only thing they did for her was the last parade and 21 gun salute. Besides that, no police representative has come to my mother or any of the family members to sympathise with us. Their lackadaisical attitude on the issue is regrettable. For that reason, I won’t support any member of my family to join the Force. Of course, I still have one member of my family in the Force. I pray for God’s protection for him.
I am Caroline. My native name is Iwamu. I am the mother of the late Sergeant Justina.
Where were you the day the incident happened?
I was in town. I went to buy medicine. My son later called me on the phone to tell me that there was an attack on the station. I began praying to God to have mercy on me and protect my daughter who was on duty that night. I decided to go to my daughter’s house to help take care of her children and I fully learnt of what happened there.
How have been coping since her death?
I have been looking unto God for consolation and protection of my grandchildren.